In a startling development in the controversy over a proposed 14,000-seat amphitheater in the Great Park, the president for North America AEG Presents attended the May 23rd Irvine City Council meeting, offering to work with the City to build a smaller live music venue. (AEG Presents is the live-music arm of sports and entertainment giant AEG.)
In February, the City Council voted 3-2 to negotiate with Live Nation — which is currently under federal investigation for price gouging and anti-trust violations — to build a Hollywood Bowl-sized amphitheater. The deal was pushed through by Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Mike Carroll. (Councilmembers Larry Agran and Kathleen Treseder voted NO.)
Construction of the amphitheater is expected to cost some $110 million of Irvine taxpayer money, with Live Nation being allowed to operate the venue for at least the next three decades.
Live Nation has offered to put in $20 million toward construction costs and then pay the City about $5 million annually. In return, the company would control the booking, sound, ticketing and secondary revenue sources — including naming rights. Under Live Nation’s proposal, the City would not be allowed to impose restrictions on noise levels.
The May 23rd AEG proposal was more in tune with the wishes of the Irvine citizenry as expressed in surveys and public comments at a pair of contentious City Council meetings earlier this year. Irvine residents have repeatedly objected to the noise and traffic impacts of a large amphitheater and the lopsided Live Nation proposal.
Noting the “discord” over the amphitheater plan, AEG Presents President Rick Miller said, “Perhaps it’s time to re-imagine this project. … The City of Irvine should consider a more favorable alternative rather than continue to struggle to make the current, flawed concept work.”
Miller continued: “You don’t have to look farther than Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado and the Greek Theater in Los Angeles for inspiration. They host a diverse schedule of world-class artists and hundreds of concerts each year … and boy, oh boy, do they sell a lot of tickets.”
Miller concluded: “Why would you give over control of a $110 million City asset to a private company and end up with the wrong venue and so few shows?”
Miller was followed by the chief operating officer (COO) of Golden Voice, the California division of AEG Presents, who said: “An 8,000-10,000 capacity amphitheater is ideal for the Great Park. The smaller size mitigates impact on surrounding neighborhoods. A decrease in traffic and sound impact which would be lessened via a permanent in-house sound system with fixed speaker positions and decibel limits. Venues have no control over sound at 14,000-capacity amphitheaters because the artists bring their own sound systems for the shows.”
AEG also offered to match Live Nation’s proposal of putting up $20 million toward construction and paying $5 million per year. And, unlike Live Nation, AEG would not ask for exclusive control of the venue and the bookings of performers.
During the May 23rd meeting, Councilmembers did not comment on the AEG proposal, as they are barred from discussing matters not on the published agenda. It is unclear at this time what the City’s response will be.
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